28 May 2012


This past week I've been focusing on healing and having fun with my family. I'm not doing much running yet, but I had my longest run since the marathon (4 miles) today and it went really well. The ITB seems to be settling down.

I am faithfully doing PT exercises every day, foam rolling twice a day, pushups three times a week. I'm doing lots of cross training: hiking, elliptical, and I added spinning this week. I was nervous about spin class because they keep the lights really low and I tend to get a bit disoriented in the dark (thanks to an MS relapse years ago), but the class went well and I'm looking forward to doing it again. I need to incorporate more core work back into my routine, and I'm going to add a day of yoga starting this week. I am allowed to run every other day, up to 4 miles, and I'll slowly increase the mileage. I know I've lost some fitness since the marathon (only three weeks ago!) but I'm working on it. The run today was a huge confidence booster. If things keep improving, maybe I'll be able to run a half in the fall.

Since the marathon, I've been feeling better and better. For the first week or so, I had pretty bad anxiety. I think the reduction in cardio made me a little nuts (running is my therapy). But after I got used to the new (lazy) normal, I started feeling good. My explanation is that I was constantly tired while training, especially near the end of the cycle, and I tend to have more MS symptoms when I'm tired. I was regularly a little dizzy and just didn't quite feel right. I think that as I build up more aerobic fitness, that will get better, but whenever I'm pushing myself to a new level, I'm going to feel a little bit awful. Maybe lots of people do, MS or not.

This weekend has been so wonderful. In fact, every weekend since the marathon has been wonderful because Sean quit his retail job that had him working most nights and weekends, which meant Maple and I never saw him. Now, he stays home and takes care of us, and it's awesome. He packs our lunches, makes our dinners, and takes care of a million other things. He makes us happy and he seems a lot happier himself. For the past few months, training for a marathon while having MS and basically being a single parent was hard, and having him home is like the world's best vacation (for me). We got rid of one of our cars and simplified our lives in general. We have a tighter budget now, but it's worth it. We have our sanity, and we have each other. I didn't realize how much I missed him.

On Saturday, Sean ran his 18-miler (he's training for a 50-mile race in September) and Maple and I went to the farmer's market. I really love our little town and the fact that we can walk to everything. We bought cold brewed coffee, coffee beans, bagels (wheat weekends!) and pasta. We took Maple out to ride her bike (which she just started doing by herself last week). We went out for pizza and came home and watched tv.

On Sunday we hiked Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire. I was impressed that so many people were out there (easily 100+ on top of the mountain when we summited around 11:30). What a scene! The weather was perfect, and it was a serious little hike too. Maple was amazing, scrambling up the rocks with Sean as her coach. I wasn't so cute but I hauled my ass up there anyway. I always wear a skirt when I hike (easier to pee) and with people lined up behind each other (or beneath, in most cases) all the way to the top of the mountain, I gave more than one (maybe more than 100) people a panty shot. Oh well, I'll never see them again. Hopefully.

Now go and watch Erin's amazing running form. I can't believe she just started running like three years ago.

19 May 2012

Two Weeks Later

It's been two weeks since my first marathon. I've been doing a lot of thinking about running, but I haven't been doing much running. On my second run after the marathon, I had an angry IT band and foot pain after about 2 miles, so I decided to take a whole week off and cross train.

Yesterday I finally saw a PT and a new chiropractor who does ART. The PT confirmed what I've long suspected, I have a crazy right leg. The knee points in, the foot points out, the whole leg is bowed. She also found that my legs are slightly different lengths and my right leg is significantly weaker than my left. She sent me home with a bunch of the dreaded exercises, which I am to perform on one side only, in order to get my right leg as strong as my left. Clams with a resistance band, one-legged calf raises and mini squats and deadlifts, hip flexor stretches, etc.

I dislike PT exercises immensely, but I dislike not running more.

Then I saw Dr. V, the highly recommended chiropractor who specializes in ART and treating runners. She took x-rays, she hurt me, she was funny and she was great. I'm going back twice next week. Despite her offhand comments about my right leg, ("Whoa, that is weird!") I'm much more hopeful about getting back to running. She said my longest run in the next couple of weeks won't exceed 4 miles, and that's fine with me. She even said I could run this weekend as long as I kept it under 2.5 miles. Yes!

I'm so happy to be on the road to recovery. Soon I'll be back on the road. Wow, I'm all about these silly platitudes today.

So what has life been like after my first marathon? It's been good. Mostly I've enjoyed the rest and the school's-out vibe of not being "in training" anymore. The first week after the marathon, I didn't run or exercise at all for three days, as Hal suggests. On Thursday I did two easy miles and barely felt my IT band towards the end. I cross trained on Friday (bike) and tried running 4 easy miles on Sunday. That run did not go well at all, which is when I decided to take a week off.

This past week, I cross trained. I did interval training on the bike, I did the elliptical while watching Unbreakable (the most inspiring running movie ever), which kind of felt like running with all the runner POV shots. I kept up with my 100 Pushups workout, although it's getting really tough (and I'm only in week 2).

Okay I was supposed to talk about "life" and I just talked about running. Interesting. Let's try again.

Because I knew I was injured before I even ran the marathon, I wasn't too depressed about having to cut back. I know I'm losing some fitness, and I don't like that at all, but it's worth it to get back to running pain-free.


Recently, I thought back to running cross country in college. I walked on the team in my final year of eligibility, and I was the slowest girl on the "A" team, which meant running doubles. I'm not sure whether I wasn't fueling properly or whether doubles were just too much for me, but I got more and more tired as the season wore on. I got slower. And it reminds me of training for the marathon. For the first half of training, I was getting faster and I had tons of energy. And in the second half, I got tired (and sick) and injured. Did I do too much? Should I have taken more rest days? Should I not have upped my mileage at all in the first half of the training? Probably.

So will there be another marathon? I sure hope so. I definitely want to. I have to get my leg and foot healed, and I want to focus on some shorter races for a while to have some variety (and not burn out). But I absolutely want to run another marathon. For my first marathon, I just wanted to cross the finish line. Next time, I can't wait to cross the finish line in a time that I feel great about.

The marathon has changed me. I feel more confident and satisfied with myself. I am so proud. I learned so much about myself, both mentally and physically. And that, my friends, is worth everything.

Okay that's some life shit right there.

Here's what I have to say to myself before the Next Big Thing:
When you're training for a marathon, it's a long haul, and if you feel great at the beginning of the training cycle, that's great! Don't push it and try to do more because you feel great. You have a tendency to become "overtrained" without the normal symptoms of overtrainedness. You get tired and maybe, with or without MS, you have to work up to things a little more slowly than other people. So what? That's who you are. Know yourself. Be proud. Work with it. Go out and do something else reckless and hard and amazing.

07 May 2012

Marathon Recap, Part 2

Since I really didn't write anything about the actual running of the marathon in my last post, I decided to write about it now, before I forget.

I got to the starting line at about 7:15 and quickly turned on my Garmin. That stupid watch sometimes takes ten minutes to get a signal, so I wanted to make sure it was going to get one before the start. Of course in this instance it found a signal immediately so I had to keep telling it not to go to sleep! I ran about a quarter mile around the block and then returned to the 10:00 pace sign, where I saw Amy C and her husband. We chatted for a few minutes and the chute started filling up. Then my running partner Kat showed up and gave me a pace band, which I thought might be ridiculously ambitious but I put it on anyway. And with that, we were off.

The first few miles were surreal. We held to a little over 10:00 pace and chatted as we ran through the streets of Providence. Those miles were so much fun, so free of pain and so full of conviviality. The race wasn't super crowded, but there were enough people to make it feel like An Event. I stopped to loosen my shoe around the 1-mile mark, since the top of my right foot was already getting achy. As we neared the first water stop, I grabbed a cup and kept moving. Before the race started, I had considered walking through the water stops, but it seemed weird to walk before the 2-mile mark, and we ran on.

We went up some hills and down some hills, and we ran about 9:55 pace. At mile 7, Kat asked me to hold her water bottle while she did something with her phone. I was amazed when she took the bottle back and said "First live tweet from the course!" I can't imagine typing on my iPhone while I was running. That woman is seriously talented. Oh, and she has a broken finger.

Around mile 8, my knee started to twinge. I alternated between running on my midfoot/forefoot and running in my normal style (mild heel strike), and that seemed to help. An older guy named Sean asked if he could run with us for a while, and he asked lots of questions and was really chatty, which helped the time go by. I was worried about my knee, but I felt good about my chances. Around mile 10, my knee gave out a couple of times. I didn't fall or anything, but I definitely felt the twinge and had to catch myself. It hurt to bend my leg, so I altered my stride to push off more from my left toe and landed with an almost straight leg on the bad side. I kept that stride up for the rest of the race. It wasn't pretty but it worked.

Around mile 11 or so, I started walking through the water stations. We were on the bike path at that point, and it was really quiet and nice. Sometime after that, I told Kat to go on. She and Sean had waited for me once before, and I didn't want to be That Girl. The crowds had thinned out, and for a lot of the time it was just me. I kept up with my gels (about every 30-40 minutes) and I alternated between water and gatorade at each stop. Just after mile 14 I stopped to stretch, but that made my knee hurt a lot more so I decided not to stretch again. At mile 15 I decided to walk for 30 seconds at each mile marker as well as the water stations. Normally I hate the idea of walking on a run, but I didn't care. I was going to finish and I was going to conserve enough energy to get there.

I realized my time goals were completely unobtainable, and I shifted to just enjoying the journey. I saw geese and people taking pictures of birds in trees. I high-fived kids. I thanked the few people who were out cheering. I danced past a house where they were blaring the theme from Rocky. I was pretty surprised by how easy it was to let go of the "race" and just enjoy the experience. Usually I'm such a control freak and I'm obsessed with my pace (such as it is), but the experience of the marathon was so much, it busted right through that crap. I knew I could run another one later, without being injured, and try to run faster. But this one, the first one, was special.

At about mile 18 I started cramping up. The worst cramps were in my hips and glutes, but they weren't terrible. As usual, my anxiety over the possibility that they might get worse was itself worse than the cramps. I took more gels and drank more Gatorade. Many of the water tables had run out of cups and were offering big water jugs to people, but I avoided that (could I ever be that thirsty?) and ran on to the next water stops where luckily, they still had cups. I felt a little sad when I realized I was so far back that they'd run out of cups. So far back that people were cheering "You can finish!" I thought, "Of course I can finish. Do I look like I can't finish? I'm fine. You didn't even start! Don't tell me I can finish!"

I kept the cramps at bay with more fuel. I remember at mile 17 I thought "Only 3 more 3-milers to go, and I'm going to do the first one first and think about the others when I'm done." That seemed manageable. As the miles ticked off, I counted down my 3-milers. With 5 miles to go, I thought about my favorite 5-mile route around my house and marked the remaining miles by thinking about landmarks on that course. Now I'm across from the high school track. Now I'm running down the hill by the bus stop. Now I'm turning onto Farview.

At mile 21 I took a gel with caffeine and the little bit of nausea I had went away. I felt pretty strong. I walked up and down the hills and jogged the flats. I smiled at everyone. I was running a marathon.

I had planned to run (i.e., no walking) from mile 24, but my legs felt really sad so I walked a bit at 24 and 25. At about 25.5 I saw my family. Fortunately I saw them from a few hundred meters back so I could have a little cry before I got to them. When I passed them, I grabbed Maple and she ran with me to the finish. Before the race, I didn't think I'd want to run with her, but it turned out perfectly. I felt like I was running so fast at that point, that there was no way she could keep up. But I think I was a little bit confused about my pace, because Maple seemed like she could have gone a lot faster. A bunch of photographers kneeled down in the street in front of us to take our picture as we ran towards the finish. I asked her if she was ever going to run a marathon, and she said yes. And then it was over.

I'm really proud of myself. I'm proud of finishing the marathon. I'm proud of training for it. I'm proud of not giving up even though my body wasn't thrilled and my knee is still killing me. And I'm really excited to do it again.

Marathon Recap

I ran the Providence Marathon yesterday. It was an amazing journey; every mile taught me something new about myself. The outcome was different than I planned, but it doesn't matter. I ran a marathon. And I want to do it again.

What I did right

Picking the race

Back in December when I was picking which marathon would be my first, I really wanted to run the Pittsburgh Marathon. I loved that it was in my hometown, and an 18-week training cycle for the May 6th race would start on January 1. But I also really wanted Sean to be there, and he couldn't take time off work to go to Pittsburgh. So I looked for a race on the same day but closer to home, and I found the Providence Marathon. It was a great choice. I loved the course - quite a few miles on a bike path, not too many hills (but enough to keep it interesting), and plenty of relaxing miles in a quiet neighborhood. I loved that I could recover in my own bed (traveling 10 hours by car for my first marathon would have sucked). And I got to know some great local runners because of the Cox Rhode Scholars (blogging) program, including Kat, who started the race with me, and Amy C who ran the half. And this wasn't under my control, but the weather yesterday was completely perfect: high 50s and partly cloudy. It doesn't get better than that.

Picking a training plan

Being a reader of Erin's blog, I knew I wanted to use one of Hal Higdon's training plans. At first I wanted to do the Intermediate 1 plan, but then I thought about how a) I was in my mid-30s and hadn't been running continuously since I was younger, b) I have multiple sclerosis, and c) I had just recovered from an ankle injury. So I decided to be cautious and do the Novice 2 plan, and I'm really glad I did. The training seemed pretty easy for the first 10 weeks or so, but in Week 14 I started having problems with my knee. If I'd pushed it harder sooner, who knows what would have happened.

Listening to my body (sometimes)

In the last four weeks, I started having problems with my knee, so I did more cross training and less running. I didn't run at all in Week 18, which is probably why I was able to limp/jog 16 miles to the finish.

What I did wrong

Bad, bad taper

Right before the taper, I got sick with some evil New England virus. My doctor wasn't sure if it was a touch of pneumonia or bronchitis. It rocked me. I tried to continue training at a reduced capacity, but I only did 8 miles that week, which was supposed to be my peek weak of the cycle. I should have rested instead of pushing it. And the next week was supposed to be the start of the taper, but I was so insane about doing the 20 mile run that I did it that week instead. Sean told me not to do it but I didn't listen, and that's usually a mistake. Because of the rearranging, my taper was more like two weeks. At the time I had no idea that the little twinge I'd had in my knee at the end of the previous week's 12-miler was going to be such an issue, but I had a really hard time with it on the 20-miler.

I also think I reduced my mileage a bit too much in the last two weeks. I passed the moment of feeling energized and rested about 4 days before the marathon, and I started feeling sluggish and atrophied.

Major diet change

About 3 weeks before the marathon, I learned from a blood test that I am sensitive to wheat, yeast, gluten, soy, and dairy. Since food sensitivities affect your immune response, I wanted to change my diet to (hopefully) keep my MS in check. But it was hard to figure out what to eat, and for a couple of weeks I wasn't eating enough to maintain my weight. I lost about five pounds, which I didn't need or want to lose, and I was always hungry and tired. Not really the right thing for the taper. Fortunately in the last week before the marathon, I concentrated on carbo loading and I think I got enough calories, or almost enough. But it wasn't too smart to switch things up in the 11th hour.

What I learned

I learned so much, and I know I'll be processing all this for a long time. I remember when I had Maple at home, without drugs, I was amazed at what my body could do. In a way it wasn't amazing at all, because having babies is something women are born to do. Training for and running a marathon has me amazed all over again at what my body can do. Having MS, I've learned to trust my body only as far as I can throw it. But now I know I can throw it at least 26.2 miles.

I learned that hard work pays off. I worked hard almost every day and ran 450 miles to prepare for the marathon. I put the time in, I put the effort in, and I finished the marathon. Bam.

The most important thing I learned about myself during this journey of training for and running my first marathon is that it's okay to hope. Even with an incurable degenerative brain disease, it's okay to hope. It's good to hope! I've wanted to run a marathon for years, but I never got the courage to start the journey because that required hope. When you have MS you learn not to count on anything because shit changes all the time. But giving into that is no way to live. Now that I've experienced the power of hope, I can't wait to go out and hope some more.

03 May 2012


The marathon is in three days.

I am resting, foam rolling, stretching. I got bodywork on Tuesday and went to the chiropractor on Wednesday. I bought compression tights to (hopefully) support my IT band. I bought a new tank with a zillion pockets and I sorta kinda broke in some new shoes. I have all my gels for the race. I know which socks I'm going to wear.

Kat and I have been talking pacing. Sean has been making super healthy food and carbo loading me. I haven't been running, but I've done some stationary biking and some elliptical workouts. I'm taking Ibuprofin three times a day. I'm visualizing feeling good at every mile marker.

I'm consumed with thinking about the marathon.  It's like postpartum brain fog. Yesterday at work I said something really stupid in an important meeting because I couldn't figure out the meaning of the phrase "within and between." It was too much for a mind addled with pacing and taping and did-I-run-enough-in-my-new-shoes.

Sometimes I think I'll have no problems finishing this race because I've wanted this for so long, I've worked so hard, and of course I'm not going to quit in the middle even if my knee is screaming at me. And then that stupid old voice says, "But you quit everything." And then I tell that voice to fuck off. I'm not that person anymore.

I think about what mile I'll be in when my IT band starts talking to me, and then I imagine a race completely free of pain. It's wonderful.

My body feels great and I have two more taper days to go. I did almost all 18 weeks of training (except for that one stupid sick week). I am almost ready.

I'm going to run a marathon!